Kids Almanac: Free comics, Cinco de Mayo, Hudson Valley Fair, swap bikes & learn to fish

Hudson hosts largest children’s book festival in New York State

The fourth annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival takes place on Saturday, May 5: not just a book festival, but the largest book festival in New York State! Bring your book-loving family and meet more than 85 children’s and Young Adult authors and illustrators, browse through hundreds of books, listen to author and illustrator presentations and do some arts and crafts. Live music performances will take place throughout the day.

One local author/illustrator to look for is Lisa Thiesing (pronounced “teasing”), who will be reading her wonderful book The Viper. I asked Lisa if she had any rituals for drawing or writing. “I suppose my ritual for either drawing or writing is to procrastinate for as long as possible. It’s then that I think of anything else that I could possibly do, which is usually cleaning the house. You would think that my house would be a lot cleaner! As a deadline gets closer, then I know that I have to do whatever it is, and I do it.” I also wondered what advice she might have for aspiring artists. “Just keep drawing – all the time! And don’t worry about what anybody else thinks of it. If it makes you happy, that’s good enough.”

Thiesing recently began offering art classes to children. “I really am enjoying that, and am finding it quite inspirational. I have a small group of really great kids. But I would like to have a few more. It’s been good, and also a challenge, to have to think of something new for them to do every week, and perhaps a new way to do it. It’s made me reassess my own drawing skills and tap back into what children find interesting.”

The Children’s Book Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. The event is located at Hudson Junior and Senior High Schools, located at 215 Harry Howard Avenue in Hudson. For more information, call (518) 828-4360, extension 1112, or visit To learn more about Lisa Thiesing, see


Hudson Valley Fair opens this Friday at Dutchess Stadium

I don’t know what it is about a fair; I will eat just about anything-on-a-stick and wash it down with gallons of fresh-squeezed lemonade. I also love thrill rides, and our oldest is just starting to get into them; my long wait is over.

For those looking to get a head start on carnival season, you will be happy to know that the Hudson Valley Fair is coming to Dutchess Stadium each weekend from May 4 through 20. In addition to rides and vendors, there are animal acts, a petting zoo, a frontier circus and an illusion show. There is also a fireworks display each Saturday at 9 p.m.

Admission for opening night on May 4 is one single dollar, and after that the cost is $6 per person; children aged two and under get in free. Tickets are available on-site for rides, and unlimited-ride bracelets cost $25. The Fair is open on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 12 midnight, and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon until 12 midnight.

Dutchess Stadium is located at 1500 Route 9D in Wappingers Falls. For more information, call (631) 920-0910, and for discount coupons, visit


This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

What introduces children to nearly twice as many new words as the average children’s book? What provides children with more than five times as many new words as the average child/adult conversation? Comic books! According to the educational journal The Reading Teacher, “Comic books have had a motivating power in literacy development for children, especially young boys, since their introduction in the 1930s. This nontraditional type of literature – often dismissed by educators as superficial and shallow – is highly visual, contains complex literary elements and lends itself to critical examination of moral, ethical and social issues.”

I grew up on Archie. My husband collected Daredevil for years. We heard of Free Comic Book Day a few years ago. Our children hadn’t been exposed to comics before, and I thought that it would a fun way to introduce them to this fun reading material. I hadn’t shopped for comics in decades, and I was so surprised about the many different characters available. Our daughter now loves Hello Kitty and Strawberry Shortcake. Our son enjoys SpongeBob and Sonic. Which ones do your children read?

Whether your crew is new to comics or you pick up the latest issues every Wednesday, Free Comic Book Day is a great way to introduce kids to comics. Mike Giacoia, manager and co-owner of The October Country in New Paltz, explains, “We’ve been doing Free Comic Book Day since it began in 2002. There’s definitely something for all ages. We have a variety of free comics available, as well as a special sale, including our half-off sale downstairs. It’s a chance to give back to our customers and to the community.”

Free Comic Book Day takes place on May 5. The following local shops have kid-friendly selections and are participating this year: The October Country in Cherry Hill Plaza in New Paltz; the Dragon’s Den in the Poughkeepsie Plaza Mall; and Alterniverse, in Washington Hollow Plaza in Salt Point. For more information, visit or visit one of the local stores mentioned here.


Celebrate Cinco de Mayo this Saturday in Rosendale and Kingston

Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “party.” Well, it really means “May 5,” but it is celebrated with lots of festivities. It commemorates the unlikely win of the outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexican fighters against the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Fun Fact: It’s celebrated more widely here in the US than it is in Mexico. Here are a few family-friendly events taking place on Saturday, May 5, the 150th anniversary of this victory:

In Rosendale, family-friendly Cinco de Mayo festivities are happening all afternoon. “This is a great celebration for kids and their families, and a really fun way to learn about Mexico’s history and culture,” says Jen Metzger of the Rosendale Theatre Collective’s Children’s Programming Committee, which is organizing the event. “Mexico beyond Mariachi, a fabulous group of performers who teach through music, dance and theatre, will be at the Rosendale Theatre; and we will also have a fun parade for all to participate in, a mercado on the sidewalk and delicious Mexican food served at local eateries, including the Big Cheese Outdoor Garden, the Alternative Baker, Twisted Foods and the Rosendale Café.”

The parade begins at 2 p.m. on Main Street in Rosendale. Come between noon and 2 p.m. to the Redwing Blackbird Theatre at 415 Main Street for puppets, masks and rehearsal. Mexico beyond Mariachi takes place at 3 p.m. A 7:15 p.m. screening of Like Water for Chocolate at the Rosendale Theatre will close out the day’s festivities. Tickets for the film cost $7 general admission, $5 for members. For more information, call (845) 658-8989 or visit


Casa Villa in Kingston is holding its 12th annual Cinco de Mayo festival on Saturday, May 5. Every year, the venue has activities for all ages: carnival rides, bouncy houses, inflatable slides, ice cream vendors and more. “It’s not just for the kids, but for their families as well,” explains José Villa, owner of Casa Villa and event organizer. “There are also vendors that sell arts and crafts, in which they may learn something else about the Hispanic culture. They can dance the afternoon away while music is playing all day long, or they can simply see the two groups of adult and children Folklórico Dancers: traditional dance that emphasizes our local folk culture. They can also try some authentic Mexican food, which will also be available all day.” Cinco de Mayo takes place from noon to 9 p.m. Casa Villa is located at 395 Albany Avenue in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 331-7646 or visit


I can sew a button, and that’s about it; I am not a candidate for Project Runway. Thank goodness for my mother-in-law, who sews our kids’ many Lowe’s project patches on their work vests. Still, I want my kids to get some exposure to hand-sewing. So I always appreciate hearing child-friendly tips from friends, such as using plastic yarn needles to “sew” yarn along the edges of a hole-punched paper bag or greeting card.

I also enjoy attending children’s sewing crafts, such as the Kingston Library’s colcha embroidery event in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, inspired by the American Girl stories of Josefina Montoya, “a Hispanic girl of heart and hope.” Spanish for “bedspread,” colcha embroidery is a special stitch developed in New Mexico during the Spanish Colonial period: the same timeframe as Josefina’s childhood in her stories.

This free history, literature and craft program takes place on Saturday, May 5 at 10:30 a.m. for ages 7 through 14. Registration is required. The Kingston Library is located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston. For more information or to register, call (845) 331-0507, extension 7, or visit


Unison in New Paltz hosts The Little Farm Show this Saturday

If you are looking for a kid-friendly approach to sustainable farming practices and thoughtful food choices – or perhaps you’ve been meaning to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma but would prefer a 55-minute live-action rendition of it – then make your reservation for The Little Farm Show: The Greatest Show on Dirt at the Unison Arts & Learning Center in New Paltz. This all-ages performance explores the question, “Where does your food come from?” through music, humor, history and information about farming, food and the environment.

The Little Farm Show takes place on Saturday, May 5 at 1 p.m. Space is limited and reservations are strongly suggested. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $7 for members. Unison is located at 68 Mountain Rest Road in New Paltz. For more information or for reservations, call (845) 255-1559 or visit


Saturday is I Love My Park Day at Minnewaska

Have you ever had the chance to visit the Minnewaska State Park Preserve? Or has it been a while? I have been visiting this treasure for over 20 years: first as a college student picnicking on the cliff, later as a newlywed biking with my husband, then as a pregnant Mom doing laps around the lake with our dogs and eventually pushing babies in the jogging stroller in the “Babes in the Woods” hikes. Now that the kids are ambulatory, we meet up with friends, attend the Park’s education programs or just explore the grounds on our own.

Needless to say, we love our parks. And now we have a chance to really give back. Saturday, May 5 is New York State’s first annual “I Love My Park Day,” organized by Parks & Trails New York. The purpose of this statewide event is to improve and enhance New York’s parks and historic sites, and to help raise awareness about their needs.

There are two local parks participating in this event: Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County and Peach Hill Park in Dutchess County. Minnewaska is hosting three events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first event is for ages 18 and over. Volunteers will remove Japanese barberry from the Beacon Hill Footpath using hand tools. The second event is for all ages, easily removing invasive species from some of the carriage roads around Lake Minnewaska. The third event is appropriate for youth ages 13 to 17, in which teams of volunteers will formalize a new section of the Mine Hole trail. Participants are encouraged to register and should bring snacks, water and lunch.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve is located at 5281 Route 44/55 in Kerhonkson and online at Peach Hill Park is located at 34 Edgewood Drive in the Town of Poughkeepsie and online at For more information about I Love My Park Day or to register, contact the parks directly, call (518) 434-1583 or visit


New Paltz Bike Swap at Middle School this Saturday

It’s spring, and like Freddie Mercury said, “I want to ride my bicycle/ I want to ride my bike.” With so many family-friendly riding options, including the Walkway over the Hudson, rail trails, carriage roads, trail-riding or just pedaling around the neighborhood, biking is a great way to get out with the kids. So head out to the garage, figure out who outgrew what this past winter and maybe decide that this is the year that you let go of that (once-) state-of-the-art bike that you’ve been storing since your glory days and get something that you can ride with the family.

If you are looking to buy or sell biking gear, check out the fifth annual New Paltz Bike Swap. Organized by the locally based Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club, this event has some great deals to help equip your entire family for riding. The Swap takes place on Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Paltz Middle School, located at 2 South Manheim Boulevard in New Paltz. Admission is free and open to all. For more information, visit


“Get Hooked on Fishing” at Morgan Lake in Poughkeepsie this weekend

In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv states, “In a world in which children seldom follow their mothers and fathers into the family business or the parents’ professions, fishing is an avocation, a craft, a calling that a parent can deliver to the next generation. For so many families, fishing serves as glue that binds the generations, even if fishing fades.”

If you’re looking for an easy way to get your family fishing, here’s an event to get you started. The 25th annual “Get Hooked on Fishing” weekend takes place on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s for kids under 16, and it’s free. Ken and Cheryl Rose of Poughkeepsie organize the event, which is sponsored by the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs. There will be door prizes, as well as awards given out to those who catch the biggest fish.

Don’t have a fishing rod? Borrow one from the Lend-a-Rod tent that will be open both days of the event. In previous years over 1,000 children have registered for the event. Morgan Lake is located at 17 Creek Road in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call (845) 229-2915 or visit


Catskill Ballet Theatre performs The Snow Queen this weekend at UPAC in Kingston

In 1844, the first electrical telegram was sent by Samuel F. B. Morse; artist Mary Cassatt was born; the safety match was invented; and Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fairy tale The Snow Queen. Since then, The Snow Queen has been retold in countless languages, and the story’s enduring themes of love and loyalty remain as relevant today as they did when they were written 168 years ago.

Now you can give your family an opportunity to experience this fairy tale in an entirely new way: through dance. The Catskill Ballet Theatre presents The Snow Queen at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) on May 5 at 8 p.m. and on May 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $27. UPAC is located at 601 Broadway in Kingston. For tickets or for more information, call (845) 339-1629 or visit


College/Youth Symphony performs Sunday at SUNY-New Paltz

I love giving my kids an opportunity to see other youth performing onstage. It’s engaging for them to watch their peers, and I think that it makes those levels of excellence seem attainable. So I am excited to bring them to the College/Youth Symphony (CYS) concert on Sunday, May 6, where the entire orchestra is made up of young people from age 14 to college students. The very talented Alex McLaughlin, 15-year-old winner of this year’s CYS Competition, will be featured as a solo violist for this concert, playing the Concerto for Viola by Handel.

I asked co-concertmaster Roxolyana Shepko-Hamilton, a high school junior, to share about her experience in CYS: “I enjoy playing in orchestra because I feel like I understand music so much better; after playing a song multiple times, you understand it on a totally different level than if you just listen to it. You learn how your part fits into the other parts of the orchestra and how, when combined, it turns into this complex, gorgeous piece of music. I really feel that playing in orchestra enhances my musical experience, and I find it very enjoyable.”

The CYS concert takes place on Sunday, May 6 at 7 p.m. in the Studley Theatre at SUNY-New Paltz. Tickets cost $8 for general admission, $6 for seniors and $3 for faculty and students. SUNY-New Paltz is located at 1 Hawk Drive in New Paltz. For more information, call (845) 257-2713 or visit


Join the Wacky Ramble fundraiser for sick kids in Saugerties this Sunday

The Wacky Ramble in Saugerties looks like so much fun for all ages. Teams of four to eight people perform family-friendly, silly tasks assigned to them to accomplish within the Village and Town of Saugerties between 1 and 4 p.m. this Sunday, May 6. Points are gained for completing the tasks with style and enthusiasm. You might be asked to play a game of leapfrog on the front lawn of the Kiersted House, or walk into a restaurant and perform a song or dance. Pictures are required for each task that the teams do. Bystanders can purchase Wacky coins and give them to teams who impress them, which adds points to their score.

The Wacky Ramble is a fundraiser for For the Love of Zach, a project fund of the Community Foundation of Ulster County. Its mission is to raise funds to help support local families of a child with a serious illness. The cost to participate is $50 per team, and preregistration is encouraged. The Wacky Ramble kicks off at 12:30 p.m. at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory, located at 169 Ulster Avenue in Saugerties. For more information or to register, visit For any questions, contact Nancy Donnelly-Swart at (845) 532-1022.


Fishkill hosts Cupcake Festival this Sunday

How many cupcakes can you eat? The record for eating cupcakes at one sitting is 29 cupcakes in 30 seconds. How about you: Do you love cupcakes? Does your family? My daughter is really into cupcakes, especially the frosting. She sees cupcake festivals as a dream come true: so many varieties sweetness to choose from.

Well, she’s in luck: K104.7 presents its first annual Cupcake Festival on Sunday, May 6 from 1 to 5 p.m. The Cupcake Festival takes place on Main Street in Fishkill, from Church Street to Bedford Avenue. There will be an inflatables area for children, as well as an activities tent. But the big question is: Who will win “Best Cupcake of the Hudson Valley”? For more information, call (845) 838-6037 or visit


All about eggs at Kingston’s Forsyth Nature Center next Tuesday

Sometimes you just never know what will happen in life. For example, I never imagined that I would ever have chickens, but now we have several. I love their personalities; I enjoy watching them scratch the ground for bugs or position their bodies just so in a dust bath (a/k/a my garden!); and I love the variety of eggs that they lay.

The Forsyth Nature Center (FNC) loves its birds, too, and it’s hosting a public program called “Eggstravaganza.” This free program takes place on Tuesday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m. and is open to all ages. They will discuss eggs and each bird that lays them at the FNC: “Learn about how many, how often, how big, how long and everything in between.”

The Forsyth Nature Center is located at 157 Lucas Avenue in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 481-7336 or visit




Erica Chase-Salerno lives, loves and laughs in New Paltz with her husband Mike and their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected].





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  1. I love the way you enthusiastically present each and every event as excitiing, educational, and/or entertaining. Excellent job…again!!!

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